Local Rhythms – As 2007 Ends, Music Scene Healthy

transcent2small.jpgOne thing I never tire of hearing is readers telling me “I never knew there was so much going on in the area until I started checking out your column.”

From Bradford down to Brattleboro and all points in between, there’s plenty to do, it’s true. As I look back on 2007, I see a local music scene growing in leaps and bounds.

There’s more to see and more places to see it. Lebanon’s Salt Hill opened a second location in Newport and soon had live bands every Friday and Saturday. Two former Canoe Club stalwarts launched Elixir in White River Junction, with music almost every night of the week.

In Claremont, a door closed with the demise of Coyote Creek, another opened almost immediately when the Imperial Lounge debuted. Charlestown’s Heritage changed hands, but kept its focus, presenting Sun King, Stonewall and others most Saturday nights.

Bistro Nouveau left Claremont, but soon linked up with JOSA in their new Eastman digs, and presented some memorable nights of music at the Springfield Country Club.

Sophie & Zeke’s didn’t break stride, with live music every Thursday and Friday; by year’s end they’d announced plans to move to a larger space in Claremont’s Opera House Square.

Bellows Falls rose from the ashes of the Oona’s fire and the Windham’s shuttering. Boccelli’s on the Canal hosted some great music (don’t forget to pick up a bottle of craft beer on your way in), and the Roots on the River festival didn’t miss a step under new promoter Ray Massucco’s watch.

The folks who play the music were busy too. Syd, the Conniption Fits, Stonewall, the Stone Cold Roosters and Hexerei all released new albums and gigged steadily. Out of town favorites like Sirsy and the Alchemystics also put out new music in 2007.

On any given night music fans could count on good music: Ted Mortimer (who has more musical hats than Bartholomew Cubbins) gently picking his guitar, or Jason Cann playing solo or rocking it up with Wherehouse, or Soul Octane Burner walking a harder edge.

Sadly, a few groups bowed out – the Spiral Farm Band, A City Divide, Sleazy Listening and Transcent (although theirs was more a mutation with prejudice than a breakup). It’s a tough world; life gets in the way of making a joyful noise way too much for my comfort.

Through it all, though, the music scene thrived, with more good times ahead. To wit:

Thursday: A New Kind of Blue, Sophie & Zeke’s – The band who helped establish downtown Claremont as a jazz hot spot now perform as a trio. They mix things up very nicely, trading licks and keeping it smooth. Vocalist Emily Lanier recently left to pursue other projects, and has of late been working with Billy Rosen (another guitarist with a healthy Sophie & Zeke’s following). Here’s wishing her the best.

Friday: Pulse Prophets, Salt Hill – One of the many interesting gets for the pub on the green, this Burlington band calls their sound an “organic and celestial fusion of funk, reggae, hip hop, Latin, and Afro-beat, with a touch of electronica. Their musical stew has been known to pack a dance floor, which helps explain why they’ve been asked back again – it’s all groove to me.

Saturday: Hexerei, Claremont Moose – I’m happy to hear that bass guitarist Mike “Frodo” Bergeron has re-joined the band. Frodo really punches up Hex’s big metal sound, so I’m glad they patched things up They have a busy weekend, with an appearance Friday at Shenanigans in White River Junction, as well as this all ages show, which also features Escape to Everything, Blinded by Rage and Half Past Human.

Sunday: Assembly of Dust, Colonial Theatre – When Strangefolk (one of the better jam bands of the late 90’s) disbanded, lead vocalist and songwriter Reid Granauer formed Assembly of Dust and continued his work as a roots/blues disciple. This is a fine double bill, with Ryan Montbleau, who’s been described as “Martin Sexton by way of Van Morrison and Stevie Wonder,” opening the show. AoD and Montbleau will also ring in the New Year at the Colonial on Monday.

Monday: Jazz Masquerade Ball, Elixir – This small plate restaurant opened early in 2007, and almost immediately established itself as a staunch supporter of local music – everything from blues to honky-tonk to the Great American Songbook. Tonight, saxophone player Fred Haas and his singer/wife Sabrina Brown provide costumed revelers with a jazzy mix of enduring favorites from the likes of Gershwin, Porter, Ellington and Armstrong.

Tuesday: Acoustic Coalition, Murphy Farm – This loose affiliation embodies the Upper Valley scene. Most of the players at this weekly Quechee jam session gig with other bands, some with several. Listen to Acoustic Coalition recordings on yellowhousemedia.com, my favorite website of 2007, for a sense of the inspired fun that transpires.

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